Catastrophes in World History
From the Pleistocene to the present, natural and man-made disasters have changed history. This course focuses on environmental change that humans have considered "disasters" and catastrophes brought about by natural phenomena as well as human influence or human design. Examples of these phenomena include Pleistocene extinctions, volcanic activity that buried Pompeii, the eruption of Karakatoa in 1883, dam failures, floods, famines, and epidemics; hurricanes, tornados, tsunamis, and epoch storms; landslides, avalanches, and earthquakes; fires, nuclear accidents, oil and chemical spills, and poisoning of ground, water, and air. The course builds on two important questions relating to "the good society" by contextualizing the place of humans in the natural world; and the responsibilities of both governments and citizens in anticipating and responding to catastrophes. From the examples in the corporate reading, documentaries shown in class, and shared oral presentations, the ultimate goal is for all seminarians to gain skills in researching, discussing, and reporting on major events from history that provide critical lessons for future sustainable living on planet Earth.